PALM SPRINGS, CA — When Larry Warnock asks you over to see his etchings, it’s not a pickup line. His collection of some 1500 museum-grade etchings, serigraphs, block prints, monoprints — and virtually every other medium of original graphic art — has moved south to the desert with this San Francisco transplant, who has now opened a local retail gallery space for the summer. Warnock Fine Arts is located inside the existing business of Just Fabulous at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs.
Warnock is quick to point out that many people associate “prints” with reproductions. “But fine art prints are original artworks that did not previously exist in some other medium.” The editions are always signed and numbered by the artist, giving the collector the confidence that a particular print is not only original, but limited.
Warnock Fine Arts is unique in the Coachella Valley, thought to be the only local gallery specializing exclusively in the work of contemporary printmakers from around the world. What’s more, Larry Warnock is the only local member of the International Fine Print Dealers Association, which numbers only 170 members worldwide.
Through his travels in Europe, Warnock seeks out award-winning printmakers seldom seen in the United States. His goal is to promote contemporary artists who have developed their own authentic expression and style while mastering the same printmaking skills that have endured for five centuries through such masters as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Picasso and David Hockney.
The selection of more than 500 works on view at the gallery represents some of the most accomplished printmakers working today. Artists such as Erik Desmazières (France) and Peter Milton (US) are found in most major museums around the world and have had museum retrospectives in the United States and Europe in recent years. Other artists currently on view include California artists David Smith-Harrison, Trevor Southey and James Groleau, and French artists Pierre-Yves Tremois and Christian Bozon. In addition, there is a broad range of artists from Eastern Europe.
The opening of the Palm Springs gallery has brought Warnock’s passion for prints full circle. He explains, “I actually bought my first print at a gallery here in Palm Springs when I was on vacation 30 years ago, and I still have that print. After I started learning about all the different techniques and styles, I just got hooked.”
Once the collecting bug had bitten, one thing led to another. “I was on the board of directors for the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts at the San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts and getting more and more involved in the arts community. At the same time, I had started creating websites for artists I knew. Eventually I saw a path for myself in the business and created my own website.” Warnock has also served on the boards of the California Society of Printmakers and the San Francisco Center for the Book. He currently serves on the executive board of Volunteer Palm Springs.
The entire inventory of his 1500 collected works may be perused at www.warnockfinearts.com, offering prints for nearly any taste or budget. Some 75 artists are represented from 23 countries, and the backgrounds of the artists are just as varied — from those who have received the highest honors the art world bestows, such as membership in the Academie des Beaux Arts in France, to works done by one artist who learned his expressive style in linocut prints while serving time in San Quentin State Prison.
Distinctive original prints have long been regarded on an aesthetic par with painting and sculpture. Artists are attracted to making prints because of the effects that can be achieved only in the print medium, whether in woodcuts, etchings or lithographs. Museums throughout the world, including the Palm Springs Art Museum, have permanent, growing collections of prints.
Printmaking is often considered a more affordable area of collecting original art, including works produced by many of the most successful and highly regarded printmakers. With an eye toward affordability, prices at Warnock Fine Arts begin at $75, while the majority of prints on view are under $500. The upper limit? “Some of the top prints by Peter Milton and Erik Desmazières range from $10,000 to $15,000,” says Warnock.
But it’s not just the accessibility of prints that has fired Warnock’s enthusiasm for the medium. “Another reason I love prints is the freedom it has given artists for personal expression. Historically, painting was done primarily for the rich and the ruling class. In printmaking, though, you have always found political satire and social activism — artists joining in the larger struggles of society.”
Warnock Fine Arts, inside Just Fabulous at 515 N. Palm Canyon, is open this summer Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone 415-377-7438 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Craft is a writer, editor and graphic designer based in Rancho Mirage.